"Dead Poets' Society" + Robin Williams - thank you!!

The real teachers inspired by the film "Dead Poets' Society".

Click on the above link to go to a BBC article about teachers who have shared their experiences of being inspired to become teachers by this film starring that wonderful actor/comedian Robin Williams whose loss is being so keenly felt by people thought the world.

Here's my own response in the light of his death. 

This film inspired me too. 

I'll never forget watching it in a crowded Birmingham cinema in 1989, aged 20 (studying Music at Liverpool Uni.), the cinema filled with people about my age, during a weekend Catholic Student Council team meeting. Looking back, I don't think it is a "great" film artistically. It's shamelessly manipulative. And yet... very few films have ever fired me up or inspired me to the extent that this film did back in '89, and as a Film Studies teacher I've seen many films! 

Neither have I ever had such a communal experience as I did watching this film that night. At one point towards the end the group of central pupil characters in the film are hauled in one by one to endure an interrogation by the Head. One of the "rebel" pupils punches a "baddie" pupil on the nose while they are waiting outside his office. The cinema I was in broke into spontaneous applause and cheering, so gripped were we by the human drama of these adolescents on the verge of adulthood whose lives had been forever changed through their contact with the maverick English teacher John Keating, played so wonderfully by Robin Williams. We were undoubtedly the target audience for the film and it hit its target smack in the bullseye. 

The thing that I think most inspired me, a future teaching Brother, by John Keating/Robin Williams the teacher was his PASSION for his subject. His own life had quite clearly been transformed by his love of poetry and literature and it was his enthusiasm for sharing what he had himself received, including life lessons about personal creativity, finding your inner voice and most famously "seizing the day" ("carpe diem") that really struck me. 

It is a lesson that I have tried to live by ever since. What am I passionate about in the subjects I have had the privilege to be able to teach and also in life in general that I can maybe share with my pupils?... in my faith, in music, in film, in nature/creation, in sport, in French culture and language?

It is the first question I would ask anyone thinking about becoming a teacher. Are you yourself passionate about the subject(s) that you wish to teach and do you really want to share that passion with young people? Given the constraints of modern syllabuses this is sometimes a difficult ideal to live up to and you also have to learn to "fake" it to a degree so as to not let your pupils down when covering aspects that you find of lesser interest personally. But it is something that I keep coming back to when preparing lessons, when choosing and preparing the worship songs we use in school Masses with our staff/pupil worship band and when thinking about the possible extra-curricular trips I could organise (Brothers' youth gatherings, World Youth Day, Africa Educational Projects...).

If young people see that I am passionate about something then at least I am giving them a chance to be touched by that same passion. 

Until yesterday I had forgotten just what an important film Dead Poets' Society was for me back in 1989 and still is today. Thank you Peter Weir (director) and all those involved in the making of the film... 

... especially Robin Williams. RIP.


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